Around two-and-a-half years ago Swan Laundry had to make a critical decision about its future direction. Managing director of the Oxfordshire, UK-based company Alex Wilson explains: “We were at full capacity. We also looked at our turnover, and the feeling at the time was we could replace every one piece of customers’ own goods with two pieces of rental.”

As a consequence, the company faced two options. It could either cut back on the level of customers’ own goods and flatwork it processed in order to accommodate the predicted increase in rental goods, or it could expand its processing capability, and therefore its business.

With another facility, reasoned Mr Wilson, the existing laundry could become dedicated to rental work, while the new one handled commercial, or customer-owned, items. This option suited the pattern of business that was being predicted. The existing laundry has two 50kg tunnel washers with a Senking 51bar press and accompanying ironer lines.

Moving with the times

Swan Laundry has adjusted its business operations in the past in line with changing trends. For example, in the 1950s it ran more than 20 drycleaning shops (see panel). It’s interesting to note, therefore, that there is an historical context to the changes that were being muted.

Fortunately, the company in the business unit adjacent to Swan Laundry’s existing premises was planning to move elsewhere. Even more fortuitously, this unit was an ideal size for the expansion plans that Mr Wilson and his colleagues felt were appropriate.

At an early stage, it was decided to involve the equipment supplier Jensen. Swan Laundry had worked with Jensen since 1997, when it acquired various items of equipment. Mr Wilson explains that he had been more than happy with the service backup, how the equipment was sold and so on. Jensen, he says, was a natural choice for the new project.

Alex Wilson visited Jensen in Denmark to discuss what was required and view the factory where some of the equipment would be made. For its part, Jensen’s representatives visited the new premises and prepared plans for the positioning of equipment, taking into account future growth, and detailed costings including payback forecasts.

Commissioning date

Originally, Mr Wilson planned to install the new equipment in January last year, but delays with the existing occupants vacating the premises pushed the commissioning date back to August and September 2001. Obviously, Jensen had manufactured the equipment for the earlier date, and it obligingly stored what equipment Swan Laundry did not have space to accept.

The Jensen equipment installed at Swan Laundry comprised:

• a Jensen Variant 2021 feeder

• a Jensen Jenroll EX 1000 ¥ 3000 ironer

• a Jensen Classic “S” D-3 folder

• a Fintec combination press

• a sleeve press

• a double-buck cabinet model DRB40

• a Jensen Senking Universal nine-module P36 tunnel washer including a 37bar press and gas drying tumblers.

• a steam dryer

• a Jensen Futurail 36kg 10-bag loop system.

The first items to be installed were the tunnel washer and ironing line, followed by the calender in three sections. Swan Laundry was so happy with the finished facility that it had a special motif painted on the floor to welcome visitors. It combines the logos of Swan Laundry and Jensen.

Alex Wilson says his staff were consulted on where items should be positioned, which provided valuable input to the project and made them feel involved.

Since commissioning the facility, Mr Wilson admits it’s been a learning experience. “We’re still finding our feet about how we process the work,” he says.

On one level, staff are getting used to the new machinery and this has involved changing their working practices to some extent. In addition, the original idea to use the new laundry facility for what it calls commercial, or customer-owned, items has been refined.

Today, garments are processed in a customer-specific manner. This is a new working practice, but it is proving effective. All linen is marked with the appropriate customer’s name and batches are kept together.

Pleasingly, there have been favourable comments from Swan Laundry’s customers, especially with respect to chefs’ wear. This is helpful to the company because its chefs’ wear service is a niche, and expanding, area that conveniently “bolts on” to its services for rental customers and those requiring their own linen and garments laundered.

Mr Wilson cites improvements in quality of processed work and benefits in the control of work among the reasons he is delighted with the new plant. “Our belief that we could replace every item of own goods with two rental has been made possible because of the new plant,” says Mr Wilson.